History of the Royal Corps Of Engineers


The origins of the Army Reserves are the Territorial Force, later the Territorial Army, established in 1908 under the Haldane reforms. 135 Geographic Squadron’s history begins with the establishment of 135 Survey Engineer Regiment in 1948. The squadron is currently a sub-unit of 42 Engineer Regiment (Geographic), a hybrid regular-reserve unit of the British Army.

Since 2001, a total of 38 soldiers from 135 have deployed on 53 operational tours in 7 operational theatres.


On 5th October 1948 135 Survey Engineer Regiment was formed under the command of Lt Col M O Collins CBE RE with squadrons in Thame, London, Chessington and Southampton.


Under a major organisation in April 1967, the regiment was reduced to squadron size and re-titled 135 Field Survey Squadron RE consisting of a squadron HQ, 337, 338 and 339 troops all based at Ewell.

In the late 60's and for most of the 70's, the squadron held their annual camps at various locations in Germany.


In 1978 the squadron became an Allied Forces Central (AFCENT) unit. All ranks wore the HQ AFCENT emblem badge and had a mobilisation role to support the AFCENT HQ.



In late September the squadron deployed on Exercise CRUSADER 80, the largest UK troops movement since World War 2. The squadron deployed by air and sea to a tented camp with HQ AFCENT in Brunssum, Netherlands.



The squadron’s role was changed to reinforce the Geographic branch at HQ British Army Of the Rhine (BAOR) working closely with 14 Geographic Squadron of 42 Engineer Regiment.



The squadron assisted Military Survey at Hermitage with manpower during OP CORPORATE, the Falkland Islands campaign.



In June 1986 the Squadron was re-titled 135 Independent Topographic Squadron RE with an additional troop (340 Troop) to carry out the role of map supply. To mark the new the title the Worshipful Company of Chartered Surveyors presented a new unit flag.



The squadron deployed to Jersey for an annual camp. During the storm that year, the squadron’s personnel and vehicles were drafted to help with the aftermath of the storm. The help the squadron provided during the storms led to the formation of Jersey’s own Engineer squadron.

The Squadron has a history of surveying and producing maps of the Channel Islands having mapped Jersey, Guernsey and Sark and also further afield Gibraltar.


The squadron deployed on EXERCISE TRIG MED in Cyprus conducting a re-survey of the international boundary pillars between the two Sovereign Base Areas and Cyprus. Individual squadron members were attached to various HQs during Op Granby, the Gulf War campaign.



The squadron was re-tasked to support HQ Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) to provide Map Supply and individual technical replacements to 14 Geographic Squadron of 42 Engineer Regiment.


Annual Camp in 1993 was EXERCISE ARRCADE GLOBE held in November with 14 Sqn at Haltern, Germany.

The TA Centre was formally re-opened after a major re-building programme to provide accommodation for training for the unit in its new enhanced role. The re-opening ceremony was performed by Field Marshall Lord Brammall and the TA Centre was officially re-named Mercator House.



Annual Camp in 1994 was held at Garelochead, Scotland.  The Squadron was honoured by a visit from the Chief Royal Engineer, Gen Sir John Stibbon. The Squadron also got to go on board a Royal Navy mine sweeper as a reciprocal visit.



Annual Camp in 1995 was Ex ARRCADE GLOBE 2 held in October at Haltern, Germany. The exercise included Geo personnel from Canada, France, Germany and the UK



Annual Camp in October 1996 was held in Cyprus when 30 members of the unit took the lead in the deployment on EXERCISE TRIG MED re-surveying and re-constructing the boundary pillars of the Sovereign Base Areas.



Annual Camp for 1997 was EXERCISE SALTASH TOR held at Tregantle Fort Plymouth. 


The Squadron played a full part in the Military Survey 250th celebrations. This included a major open day event at Hermitage, a freedom parade in Newbury and formal visit by HM the Queen to bestow the name Royal to the Royal School of Military Survey at Hermitage, near Newbury.


Annual Camp in October/ November 1998 was Ex ARRCADE GLOBE 3 when the Squadron deployed to Moenchengladbach and to Haltern in Germany. This was a very challenging exercise as it was very cold dropping to minus 16 degrees centigrade and many were also suffering from Beijing flu!


135 Independent Topographical Squadron RE celebrated its 50th Anniversary and was granted the freedom of Epsom and Ewell.


7 soldiers of the Topographic section of 339 Geo Troop deployed to Cyprus on EXERCISE TRIG MED to assist 42 Survey Engineer Group.


The squadron was re-titled to 135 Independent Geographic Squadron (Volunteers).


Annual Camp for 2000, EXERCISE MILLENNIUM OWL was held in September at Beckingham Camp near Newark. The Squadron managed to enjoy a very successful camp despite a fuel crisis and tanker strike.


From 2001 until the present time, 38 soldiers from 135 Geo Sqn have deployed on operations 53 times. The operational theatres include Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. 


The squadron deployed on OPERATION TRIG MED in Cyprus conducting a re-survey of the international boundary pillars between the two Sovereign Base Areas and Cyprus.


14 Squadron members were deployed on OPERATION TELIC, the Iraq War. Some were attached to 14 Geographic Squadron of 42 Engineer Regiment whilst others deployed to other Engineer units. A couple of soldiers were detached to help run map supply for the US Marine Corps.


The squadron deployed on OPERATION TRIG MED in Cyprus conducting a re-survey of the international boundary pillars between the two Sovereign Base Areas and Cyprus.

2007 To 2014

Individual squadron members deployed on OPERATION HERRICK in Afghanistan, supplying new soldiers every six months in support of UK, Afghan and international forces. Our reservists trained Afghan forces in map reading, provided Geospatial Information Dissemination and Analysis in Kabul and Kandahar. One Reservist was the last Geo soldier to leave Afghanistan as he was handing over the map supply system to the Afghans. In 2007-8 the Sqn provided a Geo Liaison Officer to the US Central Command (CENTCOM) to oversee the move of the joint US/UK Map Supply Depot from Bahrain to Kuwait.


On 1st April 2014 the squadron officially became part of 42 Engineer Regiment (Geographic) and subsequently changed its name to 135 Geographic Squadron (Reserves). The Regiment became a hybridised Unit composed of both Regular and Reserve Squadrons.


The squadron deployed on OPERATION TRIG MED in Cyprus conducting a re-survey of the international boundary pillars between the two Sovereign Base Areas and Cyprus. 


The Squadron also gained the formal responsibility of being on call to provide Geo support to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in times of crisis.


The camp was at Chickerell camp in Weymouth and was predominantly a training camp, consisting of military skills including an escape and evasion exercise and driver training.


In November the Sqn was warned off that it would have a new formal role supporting NATO and any deploying UK Division. Additional personnel deployed in a survey role to work with the Canadian Army surveying an airfield in Quebec to ensure flight safety.



On 1st January 135 Sqn officially took on the role to supply Geo Information Dissemination, survey and bulk reproduction capabilities to support NATO and any UK Division that deploys. Elements of the Sqn were at 30 days Notice to Move in support of the NATO Reaction Force 2017.  I.e. if NATO decided to deploy its Land forces, 135 Sqn would be in theatre about a month later. This capability was tested on EXERCISE ARRCADE GLOBE. Additional personnel also deployed to reorganise the British Forces Cyprus Map depot.



The Sqn continues to support NATO and any UK Division deployment at lesser readiness, and again will be on exercise with the wider Regt and international partners on EXERCISE ARRCADE GLOBE.


The history above is purposefully brief and fails to include the wide range of support that has been provided to customers as diverse as the Special Forces, NATO and UK Intelligence, Royal Navy, and advice to the Latvian and Norwegian Armed Forces.